Wednesday, September 8, 2010

NY Times-Rangel Finds Love and Un-Love On The Streets of Harlem

Congressman Charles B. Rangel on the streets of Harlem: Michael Nagle/NY Times
(Story reported by Michael Barbaro for the NY Times)

A 20-something office worker whipped out his iPhone and asked to be photographed with him. “Charlie Rangel!” he said, star-struck. 

An older man jabbed his finger at the Harlem lawmaker and tore into him. “You’re a crook!” he thundered. “I don’t know how you get away with it.”

A middle-aged woman offered a hug and a kiss. “I love you,” she said, then let loose a crude obscenity for his foes.

For decades, Representative Charles B. Rangel has campaigned as the all but bulletproof incumbent that he was: without urgency or worry, occasionally shaking hands at supermarkets and subway stops, but mostly on behalf of his lesser-known colleagues.

This year, everything is different: under fire for a variety of accusations of ethics violations, Mr. Rangel is trying to fend off five challengers in next Tuesday’s Democratic primary. The president has urged him to step aside. 

And even some fellow lawmakers in New York have distanced themselves from him, skipping his 80th birthday party.

So on Tuesday morning, Mr. Rangel found himself in the unusual and humbling position of wooing a parade of morning commuters on the Upper West Side, not for an endangered fellow Democrat, but for himself.

“I need your help this time,” he said in his signature gravely voice, extending his hand to passers-by.

For over 90 minutes, at a subway stop at 110th Street and Broadway, his long and deeply personal relationship with his district was on vivid display, as constituents expressed awe, excitement, anger and disappointment toward the 20-term congressman. 

(Click here to read the full story on the NY Times website.)

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